Rewards programs are awesome until members grow tired of “trying” to earn your rewards.

There’s a back story that inspired this lesson….

 It’s a sad day when you have to consider boycotting what you love → Yelp, I’m talking to you. I consider myself a Yelper (definition: (n.) a person avidly engaged in using Yelp). I actually joined Yelp because my friend got all of these great benefits just for being a loyal Yelper and it made sense with me being a “professional customer” (yep I made that up). I define a professional customer as a person that not only exchanges money for your product/service, but also provides feedback on their experience and shares it with others.  Yelp’s user benefits and me being a professional customer seemed to be the perfect pair…. but was it?

 With me checking into spots like a crazy woman, writing business reviews and sharing pictures and tips (basically Yelping my heart out),  there was no way my local community wouldn’t choose me to be a Yelp Elite member the following year. Well they didn’t and recently the community leader gave me tips on what more I could do to solidify my spot as a Yelp Elite- but there were 2 problems:

  1.  Some of the things asked of me were simply not my style. For instance I don’t believe in writing long Yelp reviews especially because I won’t read long reviews. I use Yelp via mobile app- so reviews that may be easy to scan on a desktop look like novels on my phone. To me, succinct reviews with all the necessary information and emotion are glorious- I don’t want to read a ramble when quickly trying to find a good spot to get a wax or eat brunch!
  2. I didn’t know how much longer I would have to do what I was told to be rewarded → here lies the problem!

 I love Yelp! I will still use it  but will I continue engage with it as an active reviewer? Eventually not. As a marketer I love business reviews and sharing my opinion with hopes the manager considers my feedback. Regardless of my love for Yelp, I no longer desire to be a Yelp Elite in my current community if I have to go outside of my way of using the site for a long period of time. Without knowing the barrier to entry I can easily just run out of steam one day, even if I’m secretly one review away.

This is a common problem for rewards programs. There are so many programs out there and you want customers to constantly engage with yours but what are you offering? I don’t advise giving the whole cow away, but I do suggest 3 things:

 1)      Set expectations. “Tell me what I have to do in the beginning so I won’t give up!” Rewarding customers for a certain # of transactions / $ spent is a very popular format and a great reason for both loyal and non-loyal customers to feel rewarded for doing business with you. The best thing about these types of rewards programs is that customers know exactly how far they are from getting rewarded. You absolutely don’t want customers to ever feel they are intentionally spending their money with you to work towards seemingly unattainable rewards (which could simply be rewards that take a lot more effort than the average customer cares to give).

*By the way, there are tons of other great rewards program formats that I didn’t mention, but be sure you set a clear finish line/ next level line for customers for any format you choose to use. (click here for retail loyalty examples)

2)      For rewards that take longer to earn, leave breadcrumbs along the way.Customers are aware that some rewards take time, but with people offering bigger and better every day you don’t want your customers to forget that you appreciate their loyalty/dollars spent. Coupons/discounts,  small freebies, “keeping them in the know” newsletters/emails and on the spot recognitions can help rewards members keep your program’s value at top-of-mind and feel appreciated.                                                                                                                        *Bonus: Incremental engagement tools are also great for members at risk of becoming inactive- catching them before they are completely inactive is always easier (and cheaper) because you are likely to have more natural touch points/point-of-sales for communications.

3)      Don’t miss the boat! Brand voice and marketing opportunities are everywhere! Don’t just give stuff away, incorporate that “special thing you do” into your program. How can your customers standout as rewards winners/engagers? Why would a customer want to engage with your program vs. the other program that offers the exact same benefit? Lastly, is there an opportunity for you to brand customer rewards-earned for marketing purposes? Brand+your product collectively is whom the customer has chosen, don’t let them forget why they chose you! This one could be tricky for some products/services due to differences in target audiences and budgets,  but where applicable, relevant and affordable make sure you TALK THAT TALK TO ME!

(Metaphor overload ahead) It’s totally possible for “The Little Engine that Could” to turn into “The Little Engine that Can Now Care Less”. It’s our job as marketers and business owners to keep The Little Engines full of steam and happily chugging along towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

In more layman’s terms- Keep your rewards program interesting, keep your earners active and your rewards expectations obvious and attainable!

~CTaylorGo for your Brand and Product Marketing Strategy Needs.

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